When should I mow my turf for the first time?

Determining the ideal time for the first mowing of the season is an important consideration for maintaining a healthy, attractive lawn. The timing depends on several factors, including grass type, climate, and current condition of the turf.

When do cool-season grasses like tall fescue need first mowing?

Cool-season turfgrasses like tall fescue are most commonly grown in northern climates. These grasses break winter dormancy and begin active growth when temperatures reach about 55-60°F. Under ideal spring growing conditions, established tall fescue may need mowing 3 to 4 weeks after green-up.

Here are some general guidelines for first mowing of cool-season grasses:

  • Mow when the grass is about one-third taller than the recommended mowing height. For example, if 3 inches is the desired height, mow when the grass reaches about 4 inches.
  • Common mowing heights for tall fescue range from 2.5 to 4 inches. A height of 3 to 3.5 inches is suitable for most home lawns.
  • Time the first mowing based on growth rate, which depends on spring temperatures. Allow the grass to grow slightly longer early in the season when growth is slow.
  • Avoid mowing off more than one-third of the grass blade length at any one time once mowing begins.
  • Return clippings to nourish the lawn unless removing excess thatch buildup.

Aim to mow established tall fescue lawns every 5-7 days in peak spring. Adjust mowing frequency if growth is particularly fast or slow.

When should I mow warm-season grasses like bermudagrass for the first time?

Warm-season grasses like bermudagrass thrive in southern climates. These grasses break dormancy and initiate green-up when soil temperatures reach about 65°F, often 4 to 6 weeks after the spring equinox.

Here are tips for the first mowing of bermudagrass and other warm-season lawns:

  • Wait until the bermudagrass is completely green and actively growing before the first spring mowing.
  • Common mowing heights range from 1 to 2 inches for bermudagrass. Start mowing when the lawn reaches about 1.5 times the desired height.
  • Time spring mowing based on green-up and growth in your area, which depends on soil temperature.
  • Remove no more than one-third to one-half of the leaf blade when mowing during spring green-up.
  • Plan to mow every 7-10 days at first; adjust as growth rate increases with warming temperatures.

Let the turf reach full green-up before mowing. Then maintain height in the ideal range for your grass type.

How can I determine if my lawn is ready for its first mowing?

Watch for these signs that your grass is ready for its first trimming of spring:

  • The lawn reaches about 1.5 times the desired mowing height.
  • Uniform green color across the lawn (not just green patches).
  • You can easily see grass blades growing and increasing in height.
  • Grass blades feel firm and tug slightly when pulled rather than slipping out.
  • Footprints remain visible after walking across the lawn for a short time.

Mow once these indicators show the turf is actively growing and has sufficient leaf blade for photosynthesis after cutting.

When should I mow a new lawn for the first time?

A new lawn requires patience to establish before mowing begins. Follow these general guidelines:

  • Wait until the new grass is at least 3 inches tall before the first mowing.
  • For cool-season grass, mow once the lawn is 3-4 inches tall. For warm-season grass, wait until 4-5 inches tall.
  • Set mower height at recommended level for the particular grass type when mowing new lawn.
  • Mow when the top growth feels firm and roots are developed enough to hold the sod in place.
  • Remove only about one-third of the grass blade length on the initial mowing.

Allow at least 3-4 weeks after seeding or laying sod before mowing a new lawn for the first time. Time varies by season.

How low can I set the mower on the first spring mowing?

Gradual reduction of mowing height is recommended when taking a lawn down to its summer cutting height. Here are some tips:

  • On the first mowing, remove no more than one-third of the total leaf blade height.
  • For example, for a final height of 3 inches, allow the turf to reach 4 inches before the first spring cut.
  • For subsequent mowings, reduce the height by no more than 1 inch at a time, but never cutting off more than one-third of the blade.
  • Make incremental height adjustments over 4-6 mowings until reaching the final scalping height.
  • Avoid sudden severe cuts, as this causes stress and allows weeds to invade.

Lower mower height gradually over multiple mowings to avoid shocking or damaging the grass.

Should I scalp my lawn in spring?

Scalping, or mowing very low, is sometimes used in spring to:

  • Remove excess thatch accumulation
  • Hasten green-up of warm-season grass
  • Reduce shade and matting from leftover growth

However, spring scalping also has risks:

  • Can stress and damage the grass
  • Opens areas for weed invasion
  • Increases susceptibility to disease
  • Results in a weaker root system
  • Scalping too early risks frost damage of new growth

Here are some best practices on spring scalping:

  • Use only on warm-season grass like bermuda when overseeding is not planned
  • Wait until soil temperatures are above 60°F to avoid frost damage
  • Consider core aeration instead to enhance growth and reduce thatch
  • Scalp no lower than 1-1.5 inches or severe injury may result
  • Provide extra irrigation afterward to aid recovery

Scalping should be used judiciously and is not recommended for cool-season grasses. Gradual reduction of height over multiple mowings is best.

Should I mow wet grass?

Mowing wet grass is not recommended because:

  • Wet grass clumps more easily and clippings stick to the mower deck.
  • Wet grass is prone to being pulled out or damaged by mower tires.
  • Mowing when overly wet can damage the turf, leaving ruts or tracks.
  • Disease and fungal growth are more likely in damp clippings left on the lawn.

Here are some tips for mowing wet turf:

  • Allow the grass to fully dry before mowing, even if this means delaying a day.
  • Raise mower height when mowing damp grass to reduce potential damage.
  • Use a mulching mower that chops clippings finely to dry faster.
  • Remove any wet clumps of grass after mowing.
  • Consider using a lawn sweeper to collect damp clippings.

Whenever possible, wait until the lawn is completely dry before mowing, especially for the first cut of the season.

How often should I mow my lawn in spring?

Mowing frequency in spring depends on factors like:

  • Grass type – Cool-season vs warm-season
  • Desired lawn height
  • Rate of growth based on temperatures
  • Amount of rainfall/irrigation
  • Time since last mowing

A general spring mowing schedule would be:

  • Cool-season grass – Mow every 5-7 days
  • Warm-season grass – Mow every 7-10 days initially, then 5-7 days
  • Higher mowing heights – Less frequent mowing needed
  • Rapid growth – Mow more frequently, but don’t remove too much grass blade
  • Infrequent rain – Allows longer intervals between mowing

Adjust your mowing schedule as needed based on growth rate and lawn appearance. Check your lawn at least twice a week in spring to determine if mowing is required.

Should I bag or mulch clippings when mowing in spring?

Spring lawn clippings can be:

  • Bagged – Collected in a mower attachment and removed from the lawn.
  • Mulched – Chopped finely and left on the lawn surface to decompose.
  • Side-discharged – Directed out of the mower deck in a windrow onto the lawn.

Here are guidelines for spring clipping management:

  • Mulching saves time and returns nutrients to the soil if clippings are dry.
  • Consider bagging early spring clippings if the lawn is wet or growth is excessive.
  • As growth rate slows mid-spring, mulching clippings is ideal.
  • Side-discharge sparingly as clippings smother grass by blocking sunlight.
  • Always remove any grass clumps after mowing to prevent suffocation damage.

Properly mulching and recycling clippings is the best approach in spring unless the lawn is overly wet.

What maintenance should I do along with spring mowing?

Spring lawn mowing should be accompanied by other maintenance practices:

  • Aerate the lawn if compacted using a core aerator.
  • Overseed thin or bare areas in the lawn.
  • Apply pre-emergent herbicide to control crabgrass and other weeds.
  • Fertilize according to soil test results if needed.
  • Monitor for insect pests like grubs and chinch bugs.
  • Water as needed to supplement rainfall and support growth.

Proper mowing height and frequency are just part of a complete spring turfgrass maintenance program. Make sure to address other needs for a lush, healthy lawn.

What mowing mistakes should I avoid in spring?

Some common mowing mistakes to steer clear of when cutting your lawn in spring:

  • Mowing when the grass is wet or soggy.
  • Cutting too short early in the season.
  • Mowing off more than 1/3 of the grass blade length at once.
  • Failing to sharpen mower blades before spring use.
  • Forgetting to change the mowing pattern between cuttings.
  • Not cleaning grass clumps from the lawn after mowing.
  • Letting growth get too tall before finally mowing.

Be patient, mow at proper heights for your grass type, keep the blade sharp, and avoid mowing on wet grass. Following best practices reduces lawn damage in spring.

Conclusion

The ideal timing for the first spring mowing depends on the lawn grass type, current height, local climate and growth rate. For cool-season grasses, mow when the lawn reaches about 1.5 times the desired height and soil temperatures facilitate active growth. Warm-season grasses require more patience in spring, waiting until green-up is complete. Reduce mowing height gradually over sequential mowings. Avoid excessive removal of leaf blade, mowing when wet or other common spring errors. Proper mowing combined with aeration, fertilization and weed control ensures a healthy, lush lawn in spring.

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